Well, you might ask, where is Enda? Well, his reliance on Noonan (the man he replaced as leader) doesn’t seem to be doing his party any harm. Although when the election campaign starts they will have to wheel him out, if only to go the few rounds for RTE with the bruiser Cowen.
For all the energy going into unpacking the latest poll figures from the Sunday Business Post, the only significant change from last week is the hardening of Fine Gael’s position. There is no other significant movement in these headline figures from last weekend’s in the Irish Times:
Irish Times: Fianna Fáil, 17%; Fine Gael, 30%; Labour Party, 25%; Sinn Féin, 15%; Green Party, 2%; and Independents/Others, 11%.
Sunday Business Post: Fianna Fáil 17%; Fine Gael 34%; Labour Party 23%; Sinn Féin 14%; Green Party 2%; and Independents/Others 10%
Nevertheless there is some useful comment on the more general trajectory of the political game over at Politics.ie. Tommy O’Brien on Labour’s positioning problem:
In terms of communicating anger on financial matters on the left, they have a more effective challenger to Joan Burton with Pearse Doherty. They are also challenged more effectively by Michael Noonan – while Richard Bruton is intellectually brilliant, he is not naturally sharp communicator the way Noonan is. Joan was completely overshadowed by both Michael and Pearse on budget day.
One detail from the Donegal South West bye election worth mentioning was not simply that the Fine Gael vote held up reasonably well with a young candidate from the ‘far south’ (non Gaeltacht area) of the county but, in the final result, they pulled ahead of Fianna Fail on transfers from across the political piste. The outcome of the next election will swing on such minor increments.
Tommy makes a related point earlier in his post:
Fine Gael’s position in the thirties should give it the strong likelihood of a noticeable seat bonus, a mathematical phenomenon associated with our relatively proportional PR.STV system and which has in the past given Fianna Fáil on occasions far more seats than the strict percentage earned.
For now, Fianna Fail is focused on hammering Labour to get some of that working class support back. But with Noonan temporarily in the shop window oppositional ‘authority’ seems to be quietly shifting towards Fine Gael.
All they need now is a convincing narrative (and some ruthlessly tough high altitude training for Enda). Yet, as the drops in the popularity rating for most party leaders last week demonstrates, belief in actual political leadership in Ireland is currently trending downwards.